Photograph by Schalk Van Zuydam/AP
From the National Geographic book Journeys of a Lifetime
La Route Verte, Canada
The newly completed Route Verte (Green Route) crosses the province of Quebec from east to west, running for more than 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) along carefully selected rights-of-way and rural roads. Well signed, it’s easy to follow and includes directions to interesting sites. The terrain and vistas vary immensely, from calm stretches along the St. Lawrence River to mountain views in the Laurentides.
Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, U.S.A./Canada
The Adventure Cycling Association developed this route from Mobile, Alabama, to Owen Sound, Ontario, to honor the bravery of slaves trying to reach freedom and those who helped them. There are five segments, adding up to a total distance of 2,057 miles (3,310 kilometers). Sites along the way highlight the route’s history, from former slave markets to museums dedicated to African-American history.www.adv-cycling.org
Ruta Austral, Chile
Mostly surfaced with graded but unpaved gravel, the route runs for more than 810 miles (1,300 kilometers) from Puerto Montt in central Chile, south through Caleta Yungay to Villa O’Higgins in northern Patagonia, with numerous ferryboat transfers along the way. You pass through wild and beautiful landscapes, including Queulat and Cerro Castillo national parks. Large stretches of native forest and enormous ferns surround Puyuhuapi Hot Springs, near Queulat.www.gochile.cl
Munda Biddi Trail, Western Australia
In the Noongar Aboriginal language, Munda Biddi means “path through the forest.” This cycling trail runs through miles of “jarrah forest”—from the local name for eucalyptus trees. The 206-mile (332-kilometer) section from Mundaring to Collie opened in July 2004, and two extensions will take it to Albany. You may encounter forest natives like western brush wallaby, western gray kangaroos, and brushtail possum.www.mundabiddi.org.au
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
If bikes and beaches mix well for you, Vietnam combines them on this 746-mile (1,200-kilometer) route between the country’s two biggest cities, taking you along vast stretches of sandy coastline. But it’s no picnic, as road surfaces vary considerably and there are many natural obstacles like the Hai Van Pass, the historical division point between North and South Vietnam.
Gran Fondo Campagnolo, Italy
This mass-participation ride through the Dolomites around Feltre honors Tulio Campagnolo, who invented the modern gear-shifting system, the derailleur. It takes place each year in mid-June, soon after the mountain roads are cleared of snow. You climb more than 13,780 feet (4,200 meters) along the 130-mile (209-kilometer) course, which tops four summits.
Luchon to Bayonne, France
The Tour de France crossed high mountain passes for the first time in 1910. On Stage 10, the most difficult that year, the winner took 14 hours to cycle the 202 miles (325 kilometers) from the mountain spa town of Luchon to the finish at Bayonne, crossing four major passes, all unpaved at the time. Tracing the route is simple—follow the roads that climb the same passes: the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, and Aubisque.
Route du Comte Jean, Belgium/France
Belgium is known for its Vlaanderen Fietsroute (Flemish Cycle Route) along country roads and paths, many closed to vehicular traffic. The Route du Comte Jean (named for a 14th-century Flemish general) takes in 137 miles (220 kilometers) of the network, from Bruges into northern France. There are no mountains, but coastal winds present a challenge.www.visitbelgium.com
Land’s End to John O’Groats, Britain
Depending on your route choices, the distance can be 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) or more. Prevailing winds are more likely to be with you going north to south. Even if you take the long way in a relaxed fashion, you should have no problem beating the first official End-to-End record: 65 days, done in 1885 on a highwheeler.www.ctc.org.uk
Cape Argus Pick ’n Pay Cycle Tour, South Africa
At 68 miles (109 kilometers), the Cape Argus ride isn’t the world’s longest open-ride race, but with some 35,000 participants, it may be the biggest. The course does a loop of the Cape Peninsula with constant ups and downs. If you’re just happy to finish, you’ll enjoy the many coastal sections and the portions through Table Mountain National Park.www.cycletour.co.za
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